Twisted Image is completely insane in Modern! Two of the most popular decks by far are Melira Pod and Affinity, and they each have a bevy of targets, all of which are central to their game plan. Affinity plays both Ornithopter and Signal Pest while the Pod decks basically all have 4 Noble Hierarch and 4 Birds of Paradise, as well as Spellskite and Wall of Roots. The wonderful thing about Twisted Image is that it usually kills creatures that you would want to kill anyway, and now you get to do it for one mana at no card loss. I started with a stock Splinter Twin deck list and cut the excess one-mana catrips that don’t seem particularly essential or even powerful. Each deck list I see has some combination of Gitaxian Probe, Peek, or some other card that just seems jammed in at random. This isn’t completely random though, they play these cards because when you play four Snapcaster Mage—you desperately want cheap blue spells that do ANYTHING while drawing a card, so you may rip through your deck faster and can still use that Snapcaster when your Lightning Bolts aren’t useful targets.
The fact that Twisted Image can kill Spellskite should not be understated. It is one of the primary reasons why I decided to play this card. Spellskite is one of the best cards to play against the Splinter Twin combo, and because it is an artifact almost any deck can just jam Spellskite in their sideboard and have a reasonable chance in the matchup. Having a card that can cycle at almost any point in the game while also having a huge impact on the game is just what you need. But that’s not all Twisted Image can do. It’s very nice to be able to switch the power and toughness of Tarmogoyf and either leave it vulnerable to a Lightning Bolt or to switch its power and toughness then activate your Relic of Progenitus to kill it. It’s a two-card combo, but both cards are completely reasonable to put in your deck anyway and when they both cantrip you kill a ‘Goyf for free and it costs you no cards. This plays wonderfully into my strategy of playing Splinter Twin—I try to aggressively combo off game 1 and sideboard into a control deck. Linvala, Keeper of Silence is also an extremely commonly-played sideboard card that is made much less effective by the presence of Twisted Image. The largest reason why Linvala is so good is because it has 4 toughness and can’t be killed by Lightning Bolt, but when you draw Lightning Bolt and Twisted Image together Linvala looks downright embarrassing. Having access to an effect like this is huge when you play long games and can repeat these sequences with Snapcaster Mage.
I recently made Top 4 of a 56-person Magic Online tournament with the deck.
I liked the deck. I started 5-0 in the Swiss before conceding my final round to take a small break before the Top 8 where I went 1-1, so a total of 6-1 in matches played on the day. Even more telling was that I had a great experience with the deck and never got paired against Affinity or Melira Pod—the decks I metagamed against the hardest.
Personally I hate Peek and Gitaxian Probe and believe they don’t belong in this deck at all. They are a form of training wheels for players who don’t really know what their opponent could have. If you are thoroughly practiced with the decks and know what your opponent could have you don’t really need the extra information about your opponent’s hand. In this instance I would much prefer the concrete value gained from killing creatures.
Easily my most valuable card in that PE was Batterskull. Batterskull is just completely gross out of the sideboard of Splinter Twin, and I may even move up to three copies. The thing about Batterskull is if you played it maindeck it wouldn’t be all that great, but it gets so much better when you win game one with your combo plan and sideboard in Batterskull while your opponent dilutes their deck with anti-combo cards. I won many games with Batterskull against cards like Celestial Purge, Path to Exile, and Linvala, Keeper of Silence. People just dilute their deck too much to make sure they don’t die on turn four and try to play a long controlling game where Batterskull attacks from a unique angle.
Blood Moon also falls into this category. I loved Blood Moon and I wanted to draw it more often but I don’t want to put more in my sideboard out of fear of drawing multiples and having people actually be prepared for it. When you only play a few copies of a card like Blood Moon or Batterskull you get their effects, but you also don’t totally rely on them as a strategy to win any given matchup. Additionally Blood Moon has a wide delta for how great it can be and how completely useless it can be.
My main deck is pretty basic and there isn’t much I would want to change. The two copies of Vendilion Clique were mediocre for me but they seem mandatory to play. They serve a similar purpose as Peek or Gitaxian Probe since it does allow you to see your opponent’s hand, but also lets you remove a card from it. When a card can do what Thoughtseize does but in a blue-based deck, you’ve got something special. I also love Vendilion Clique after sideboard as a win condition. I can’t count the number of times I have won games with Vendilion Clique beatdown. Additionally, Clique allows you to interact with normally troublesome uncounterable spells like Abrupt Decay and Combust. Between the maindeck Spellskites and the Vendilion Cliques I actually don’t hate my chances against an opponent who has drawn an Abrupt Decay.
I still play 1 copy of Kiki-Jiki in my deck despite the fact that I hate it. Kiki-Jiki sucks, it really does. It’s expensive and fragile and the redundancy isn’t all that exciting, but I will tell you why I still play it and feel confident that 1 is the correct and optimal number to play. You can win the game at “hasted” speed. What I mean by that is usually a player knows that as long as you don’t flash in a creature at end of turn then you can’t untap and combo, everyone knows you need a Deceiver Exarch that does not have summoning sickness to put Splinter Twin on to win. Occasionally though, I get fast kills against people who tap out knowing I can’t play a creature at end of turn and I simply untap and play both Deceiver Exarch and Kiki-Jiki on the same turn and make a bunch of hasted Exarchs to win—just use the Deceiver Exarch and untap one of your own lands to allow for the 5th mana for Kiki-Jiki or the third red source. This means that either I win the game by surprise some percentage of games or that my opponent needs to play even more cautiously than they would normally, which is all right by me since I only play 1 Kiki-Jiki. That said, there is still some value in the redundancy, since Pestermite and Kiki-Jiki wins the game just as well as Splinter Twin on Deceiver Exarch.
Swan Song has exploded in popularity, but I remain skeptical. I was advised to play Swan Song over Dispel in my Splinter Twin deck and I feel strongly that this is incorrect. These two cards are remarkably similar in game one where I don’t feel the need to change the cards there, and after sideboard they play in completely opposite ways. As I stated previously I love to warp into a long-game control deck after sideboard, and in those types of games you would greatly prefer to not have your opponent get a 2/2 flying creature when you get into a counter war. I like just grinding out the games against UWR Control or the mirror match where Snapcaster Mage and Cryptic Command are some of the best cards and you can almost guarantee that the games will last a long time.
Moving forward, I highly recommend Splinter Twin with Twisted Image in the maindeck. I feel like the only way it would end up working out poorly is if you never got paired against Melira Pod or if you somehow got paired against a Pod player savvy enough to sideboard out all his 0-power creatures. I don’t think this could ever happen since the mana accelerants are some of the best creatures in that deck and some of the best cards in the Splinter Twin matchup. I also think that any time someone got blown out by Twisted Image they would just assume it was a 1-of or chalk it up to variance or think it was a fluke. I know that’s what I would do if that happened to me. This almost ensures that you can punish them through the entire match. I also very much like how Twisted Image plays with Blood Moon since it kills mana creatures in the early game and makes sure that your opponent won’t be able to function with what he has already put down.
I am sad to say I couldn’t make the Grand Prix in Minneapolis because I’m spending my time trying to prepare for Pro Tour Journey into Nyx. If I needed Pro Tour Points even a little bit more than I do now I would have gone, but I have already locked up Platinum so going to Grand Prix tournaments really isn’t in my best interest. It makes me sad to say that, because Grand Prix Richmond a few months back was the first American Grand Prix I missed in over three years. If I had gone, you better believe I would be playing this list.
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